First Update to the Burgundy Book in 23 years

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27 July, 2023

Laura McHugh

The Conditions of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales, also known as the Burgundy Book was updated in August 2023, for the first time since August 2000..

The Burgundy Book is a national agreement between five teacher unions and the National Employer's Organisation for School Teachers (NEOST) and establishes contractual employment rights for teachers including provisions on sick leave and pay, maternity leave and pay and notice periods. The rights are incorporated into contracts for maintained schools, though in practice many academies and other schools also opt to follow the same entitlements. Indeed, the updated Burgundy Book expressly acknowledges academy trusts. Conditions of service for teachers who transfer to an academy trust under TUPE would be protected and continue to be entitled to Burgundy Book terms and conditions where these were incorporated in their previous terms and conditions.

The new edition has been welcomed by sector as it means the handbook has been updated in line with changes to legislation since August 2000 and to clarify language and terms within the handbook, however, importantly, it doesn't amend existing terms and conditions of employment.

The key changes to the handbook include (note this is not an exhaustive list):

Gender-neutral Language: this has been adopted throughout the Burgundy Book, with the aim of promoting inclusivity, and to underline the fact that the maternity provisions apply to pregnant women, trans men and non-binary teachers.

Contract of Employment: written particulars of employment shall be provided at the commencement of employment, rather than within two months.

Resignation and Retirement: the automatic default retirement age has been removed to reflect legislation changes. Amendments have also been made relating to Premature Retirement Compensation, highlighting changes in regulations.

Sick Pay: references to specific sickness and incapacity benefits have been removed, with an overriding principle that if a teacher is in receipt of such benefits then they cannot be paid more than if they were working. Reference has also been made to compliance with data protection legislation, where there are cases of prolonged or frequent absences and teachers are required to undertake examinations requested by the employer

Maternity Scheme: any pay increase a teacher receives (or would have received if they were not on statutory maternity leave) must be taken into account in the calculation of maternity-related pay and their pay on return to work must take into account any pay increases they would have received. Maternity leave no longer needs to be commenced on a Sunday, all pregnant teachers are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave and they should be assumed to return back to work following maternity leave, removing the obligations on the teacher to provide notification. Amendments have been made to confirm that maternity leave can be triggered from the beginning of the 4th week of the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC) rather than the 6th week before EWC. Reference to the Equality Act 2010 have also been made throughout considering that 'pregnancy and maternity' are protected characteristics.

For employers required to incorporate the Burgundy Book, and those looking to adopt its provisions, it is advisable to review contracts of employment to ensure reference to the revised edition is referred to where appropriate and ensure any terms within the contracts do not contradict those which have been updated within the handbook.

If you have any questions in relation to the updated provisions within the revised edition of the Burgundy Book or would like us to assist you with a review of your contracts, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Education team.

For more information contact Laura McHugh in our Education department via email or phone on 0161 918 0008. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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